It was bound to happen. I saw the warnings “iCloud is full,” “this iPhone hasn’t been backed up.” And I’d been warned repeatedly by the tech-support friend who helped me — oh, who am I kidding, he set it up and installed all the apps. That was July of 2018 and I was in dire need of a new phone. My old one had a cracked screen that seemed to suddenly get a bit worse every day. I’d broken the screen twice and paid dearly both times to have it repaired, in part because I wanted and needed (for work) photos I’d otherwise not be able to retrieve. When I say I broke the screen, I mean it went blank, so, yes, I could hook it to my computer — but I couldn’t see the “allow” prompt on the blank screen. That meant, of course, I couldn’t get the images.
My buddy also hooked me up with a nice sturdy OtterBox to protect my “new” phone (it was refurbished). And he told me, as he saw my full storage on the old phone, that I needed to back up everything regularly. In other words, move my photos and videos and any other files I wanted to keep long term to another storage option: thumb drives, DVDs, and easiest of all, iCloud. I had a certain amount of iCloud space, and could buy more, he explained, patiently, as I already was playing with my “new” phone’s camera.
I did occasionally delete groups of photos, especially work-related images I’d never use again or had already uploaded to my work desktop. And I’d go through personal photos and delete duplicate or unflattering images. But I left a lot on there. And here’s the thing: I kept taking photos even after it told me I had no more iCloud space. They were showing up on my camera, so what did I care? I care more than I can say now. I have lost all my photos from many fun times and milestone moments with family and friends over the last year. I am sick that I didn’t download any of the photos I took at an amazing wedding of dear friends over a four-day Labor Day weekend in Lexington. Photos I’d taken over the weekend of the new Downton Exhibition at Biltmore, which were to be a part of an upcoming feature story, are gone. Of course, I can go back to take more of those.
The one saving grace of this whole experience is I no longer have any shame about being a Facebook check-in enthusiast. Nor do I regret sharing photos online of plate after plate, meal after meal. At least those images live on on Facebook.
What happened? Well, my phone was working Monday night at bedtime and I plugged it in to charge overnight, as one does. Early the next morning, I pushed the “home” button to check the time and see how many notifications I had. And nothing happened. I checked the cord, thinking maybe it wasn’t fully in the charge port or maybe not completely plugged in the electrical outlet. I changed cords. I changed plugs. Nothing would make the battery-charging symbol come on. I brought it to work and plugged it into my desktop, hoping for a miracle. Nothing happened. I took it to a repair shop. They tried a new internal battery, a new charging port, and a combination of both. Nothing worked. I was able to access what (relatively) few things had been stored in my iCloud, but most of that content seems to have come from my iPad. Speaking of the iPad, I used it to “find phone” and it pinged my phone’s location immediately. That gave me hope. At least something was still working inside my phone. Or so I thought.
And it isn’t just the photos and videos I’m sad to lose. On Monday I’d just discovered the app that counts how many steps you take each day (as well as miles walked and number of floors climbed). I was in awe. It had been on the whole time I had the phone. That’s what I was playing with before I went to bed that night. I was going back through the summer and seeing how many steps/miles I’d trekked on certain days, especially vacations or day trips for hiking. I was most amazed to discover I’d walked a bit over seven miles at Walt Disney World one day in June — and nearly six more the next day. Both days the temperature in Orlando was 100 degrees or more (I think it was 103 the second day, which I’d spent at Epcot).
So, go forth and save your memories. Back them up. This is John. Don’t be like John.
J.H. Osborne covers Sullivan County government for the Times News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.